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Kansai Part 3, 2014

One last post about Japan!  (Although not the last travel post. You're stuck with those for a bit longer yet!)

So, one of the highlights of my time in Kansai turned out to be Toei Eigamura aka Toei Movie Park.


Look, yet more Detective Conan VS Lupin the III promotions!

Anyhow, Toei Eigamura was pretty freaking awesome. It's kind of like a Japanese Movieworld or Universal Studios without the rides. Featured a museum depicting a lot of Japanese film history, a ninja trick house, a haunted house (Japanese theme park staple, apparently, no wonder the horror genre flourishes so over there) and a pretty excellent ninja stunt show 'Jiraiya' which was hammy as hell but still super awesome!


Also, animatronic ninja, fruitlessly crossing the plaza, back and forth, with no targets to kill.


There was also an anime 'museum'! Featuring more giant fibreglass robots.


And GeGeGe no Kitaro! Man, I remember the live action movie of this. Still can't believe it's that popular.


I put 'museum' in quotation marks because it was honestly just a whole stack of posters and advertising paraphernalia from various anime across the years, not even any background information on production companies or dates or summaries or anything. Nice for the nostalgia hit but not a particularly deep experience!


Though really, big robots so who cares.


Also a HEAP of Doki Doki Precure stuff, Precure is another one those series that is super massive in Japan but hasn't seemed to gain much traction in western fandom. I saw it everywhere. Convenience stores, even.


It feels strangely procedurally generated.


But look, Galaxy Express 999 as well! All the nostalgia.


Anyhow, one of the biggest draws of the movie park is surely the sets themselves which are used in a lot of historical movies and dramas. It's actually surprising how many, I found a few views which I recognised from a few samurai films, but just skipping past the dramas on TV you would be like 'ahhhh I know that place!'


Complete with miniature fake castle in the background.


Of course, the weather was a little bit dreary that day, and it was also off-season... which had the glorious side effect of leaving the park almost completely empty. There was one school group of about forty kids from Osaka roaming about, and like... five other people.

I think the staff might have actually outnumbered the guests.


You could also visit a costume shop and for a somewhat pricey sum they would lend you a costume and do your hair and makeup into the appropriate period dress so you could go wander the park in character! (I didn't do this, mostly because of the price.) Even then it was pretty tempting.


Also in one lake there was an animatronic dinosaur that breathed mist for no apparent reason. Didn't exactly fit the theme of the area!


Looks, just have more awesome set photos. It's like tourist time travel or something.


You could even go INSIDE the buildings, which they had stocked with all sorts of props or dressed up according to venue.


Ready for some traditional tea-making~


Another alley. Just picture it filled with Shinsengumi.


Historial red-light district street.


They also had a 'learn how to swordfight like a samurai' training demonstration which was unexpectedly hilarious (although again, hammy as hell.) Easy enough to follow along with even very basic Japanese.

Their Ukiyoe museum was closed but in compensation they had a big Lupin and Conan exhibition! They were really two separate exhibits really but weren't too bad, both solid chronicles of each series' storylines, lots of original stills and character sketches and the usual promo stuff you see at these things.


No pictures allowed, unfortunately, except at this particular spot, which the attendant tracked me down halfway through the exhibit simply to let me know that 'this place only, pictures are okay!'. (I think they were bored. Pretty sure I was the only person to wander past all hour. They were all suddenly alert like startled meerkats when I wandered into the vicinity).


There was also a trick art museum filled with optical illusions which is probably a lot more fun if you have a friend to take fun poses and photos with, but was still a brief yet entertaining diversion.


Probably not worth the extra admission however.


I don't even know, but it's awesome. On a revolving platform which somehow made it even more epic, as though such a thing were possible.


Found a hall commemorating every winner of the Japanese Film Academy's award winners since they first started giving them out (think Japanese Oscars). Was kind of interesting to see what movies won. For some odd reason though the two stills they provided of the movies in question were all black and white even if the movie itself wasn't, odd choice.


Was super surprised to stumble upon this movie in there though! It's English title was 'Sumo Do, Sumo Don't', it was a pretty excellent movie that we watched in our high school Japanese class one day when the teacher didn't feel like teaching. It's about a high school sumo club, follows the sports club formula pretty closely to great effect. (Or possibly was one of the forces in popularising that formula?) Either way, good memories.

I wish I'd thought to check ahead what days they did the Power Rangers shows, though, because after that there wasn't much else to do. Still, a most excellent day at Toei Eigamura! You could probably knock it over in an afternoon if you were efficient, but if you take your time and see everything possible it's a pretty nice day out. Would recommend.

Met up with umarekawareru again the next day!

We got a late start, although I entertained myself watching a high school PE class be forced to run laps around Njio castle and picking out all the cliches. 'oh, there goes the sports club members... bunch of friends jogging together chatting... oh here are the geeks, walking along in sullen resentment'.


Nijo Castle itself is definitely very cool though! I may have been over a lot of shrines and temples and whatnot but it's a standout. Pictures aren't allowed for most of it, but some of the carvings and the paintings inside are amazing, not to mention the nightingale floors are neat. I desperately wanted to record them but once again Japan's incessant noise pollution got in the way.


The grounds around the palace themselves are quite beautiful as well, although that's hardly a surprise by now, Japanese gardens right? They have earned their reputation.


This is a hat tree, growing more hats.  (I kid, there is apparently a tree under there trussed up so it doesn't die in winter or something).


After Nijo castle we wandered onwards to umare's house, stopping for ramen on the way.


Then we basically just killed the rest of the afternoon chatting while hanging out with the kotatsu and drinking green tea, which was indeed a most fabulous way to pass time. Got to try a kotatsu guys! They are super awesome. Although a part of me thinks they're mostly awesome because Japanese houses are so bad at heating and that in a properly heated environment they would lose much of their allure.

Still, it was heaps of fun.

I seemed to lose a weekend here somehow. I believe the weather was a bit pants one day so I stayed inside catching up on internet and doing some job-hunting and things like that. I also hit up Tennoji on the Sunday, which didn't result in any pictures. Tennoji's pretty neat, has a couple of good shopping centres, a small Animate, a SEGA arcade, some decent food places... and was a surprisingly short walk from my hotel! Was sort of annoyed I didn't discover it sooner, really. Not really a big touristy drawcard but a good place to kill a day.

Then on the Monday, back to Kyoto!


Heading towards Kiyomizu-dera. For some reason this place, more than any other, there were heaps of people wearing kimono.

Also saw a one-legged girl conquering the stairs like a pro on crutches and couldn't help but think that Japan must be oppressive for anyone in an wheelchair.


Kiyomizi-dera itself! One of the more famous sights, and accordingly crowded.  Was a nice walk and the view certainly worth it.


Suntory Boss is the boss of them all since 1992. Hahaha you see these everywhere but I finally snapped a picture of one. As company slogans go it's one of the best ones.

I'm always surprised by how much English is on signs in Japan despite the fairly low prevalence of English speakers. Certainly their frontline service staff have improved a lot since the last time I was there but parts of Japan would still be a real struggle without at least some Japanese. So who are the signs for?


Gion shrine.


Gion district is famous as the geisha district. I did not actually see any geisha but there were certainly a lot of high-class souvenir shops! It was quite a nice area to walk through all the same.


And eventually leading back to Karasuma-oike.


I'm embarrassed I can't remember who this was anymore, but I did read her story on the plaque and it was quite an interesting one! Will have to check out the high-rez photo again later to reacquaint myself.

Next day the weather was a bit rubbish again so clearly this was the best time to go to the Umeda Sky Building. I don't know why I keep going to observatories under the very worst conditions, I mean, it wasn't like the weather in Japan was bad, it was lovely and clear for at least 90% of the time!


Still, here's the building. Pretty funky design!


Yeah, see that glass structure on the left sitting out from the building itself? That's a glass elevator. It's not even attached to the building!


The glass elevator led to these escalators which took you across to the sky garden proper. Yes, there is truly nothing beneath them. I have considered it very carefully, and have decided that this place is the very worst possible place to be trapped in an hypothetical earthquake. I mean, I am totally cool with heights and this still made me a little nervous!


The sky garden itself is awesome though. Great views of Osaka, plus the top level is open-air. The level below also has a bunch of great seats so you can just sit and chill and admire the view while chatting or meditating or whatever floats your boat. I played some Nintendo DS for a little while since the place was so quiet, and just because I could. It feels ridiculously opulent to playing Nintendo DS looking out over a crazy view like that.


They also had a thing for couples where they would sell you heart-shaped padlocks and engrave your names on them, and couples would them fasten the padlocks here as some sort of promise or affirmation of their love or something like that, whatever, their marketing clearly works!


Heading back down the scary escalator.


Got an early start to the next day when I was woken up by a siren and a polite and cheerful voice informing me in Japanese 'It is a fire! Please evacuate.' Then strobe-lighting the hallway. Kind of surreal and alarming and if it were a real fire I would probably be dead as I sleepily grabbed my wallet and passport, tossed on my coat and shoes and shuffled down the fire stairs. Everyone was milling around the lobby but it turned out someone had indeed just showered with the door open despite the sign in four different languages, the jerks.

It is a little interesting how Japan uses spoken voice in the warnings so much though. Truck reversing. 'BEEP BEEP BEEP The truck is reversing, please stand clear!'. Police siren. 'WIIIIIUUUUUWIIIIIIUUUUU *garbled Japanese which I can only assume means GET OUT OF THE WAY in the politest way possible*. Heck, I even saw one truck with its indicator on with a speaker declaring 'The truck is turning left!' Noise pollution.

Anyhow, I put the false alarm and early start to good use and headed over to the Osaka Museum of History.


I'd actually tried to go here previously but the one day I attempted was also the only day it was closed that month, but luckily with such an extended holiday I had a second chance! Hooray!


Came here for the Osamu Tezuka exhibit. It was a most excellent exhibit, although once again photos weren't allowed for most of it. Had a lot of Tezuka's old notebooks, and a very thorough chronicling of his works! (Also the other guy, who is pretty good too I guess). It was a really well put together exhibit, reminded me to finish Phoenix and also made me want to read the rest of Tezuka's works.


What's this? Attack on Titan snacks at Lawson? Don't mind if I do!

My sleeping schedule got massively messed up at this point, which meant I lost most of the next day. But there were a still few hours of daylight left, so I wandered out to Takatsuki, which I'd seen from the train line.


And found the Meiji factory!

The whole suburb just smelled so good I love Meiji chocolate way too much.  :| It's not like it's the most high-end chocolate ever but god, I am kind of enamoured with Meltykiss. And Apollos! Those things are so moorish, you can't stop until the whole box is gone. I kept trying to buy chocolate as souvenirs for people and kept eating it. :|


The factory also comes with this giant chocolate billboard. A world-record apparently? Whatever, it's a giant slab of chocolate for a billboard, I'M SOLD.

Then managed one last catch up with umare! It was nice to hang out so much, as the friends I was originally going to spend time visiting there moved back to Australia earlier than expected. This time she made the trip to Osaka instead, and we did the proper food tourist thing and tried out Osaka's signature dish, okonomiyaki!


As delicious as expected.


Then we wandered Dotonbori for a while. Dotonbori I think is what a lot of people picture when they're imagining 'crazy' Japan. It's zany and brilliant and filled to the brim with amazing restaurants.


I mean, how could resist a place with giant gyoza?!


Or an amazing octopus singing takoyaki opera?!



Dotonbori is amazing, is what I'm saying,

We wandered down to the northern end of the Den-Den Town after that, checked out a couple of stores, found an old retro arcade with Puzzle Bobble (yay!), and eventually located a free Taiko machine for another round of some sweet drumming. And chilled at Starbucks for a while too.

Then it was sadly time to say goodbye again. Thanks for the good times, buchou! It's still kind of crazy that we live in a world where we can organise meetups with old internet buddies in other countries.


My time in Japan rapidly running out, I finally made the trip to Arashiyama on the outskirts of Kyoto.


I wish I'd gone sooner. Arashiyama is stupidly beautiful, and even on this wintery day which was all foggy and overcast it was still the most scenic thing ever, the mountains straight out of an ukiyoe painting.


Togetsukyo bridge. I grabbed a hot chocolate from a vending machine and just drank in the sights here for a while.


An ambitious photographer undeterred (or perhaps drawn?) by the weather.


Further upstream just got more and more stunning. I can only imagine what this place must look like in spring.


Wandering up the mountain path.


To more amazing views. There's a scenic railway through the area which was closed for January and February, going to have to return here one day to check it out for sure.


Stumbled across Arashiyama's famous bamboo path. Love bamboo forests~


Just fell in love with the whole area, really. It's a must-visit on any trip to Kyoto. I was kicking myself for not going sooner in better weather.

Then it was the last day! D:

I decided to spend my last day revisiting some of my favourite spots in Osaka. (That bore a revisit, anyway). First up, bright and early was Osaka Expo Park.


And man, if only I'd stayed one more week! So close to the plum blossoms blooming!


There were a couple of early blossoms at least, and I took far too many photos of them in consolation.


The first hints of spring~


Ahaha, cursing myself for not staying even one more week! Still, next time.

On my way back from here I stumbled across an almost entirely deserted arcade. This was perfect, as I at last got to play all the rhythm games to my heart's content without crazy awesome rhythm game ninjas making me feel inadequate! Got to try out Project Diva finally too, that machine is always busy. \o/ God I love rhythm games, I just wish I could get better at them! Always that dexterity ceiling stopping me from true mastery!


Also had to have one last serving of takoyaki in Dotonbori! I am already missing takoyaki. To think I used to be so ambivalent about that food. It's the one Japanese dish we can't seem get right in Australia yet, even though you can get most excellent examples of nearly all the other staples.

After that it was back for one last run through Den-Den Town. I had a bunch of spare yens which I spent on gatchapon and skilltesters and subsequently ended up with a lot of randomly cool shit I'm not exactly sure that I want. I mean, yeah, Lelouche bedsheet is pretty cool I guess, maybe...? And cute alpaca earmuffs? That don't really suit me. And not to mention that my gatchapon luck is that even when there are five out of six gatcha in the set I would like, I will always, always get the sixth one. And if I go again I will get a duplicate of that sixth one. :| I have no impulse control with these things, clearly.


That said in my wanderings of Den-Den Town I stumbled across a holy grail of gatchapon in the basement of one otherwise unimpressive arcade, it was full of gatchas I'd not seen anywhere else! Some pretty excellent ones, at that.


This one store cramming way too much awesome into one place.

Urgh, these wanderings made me realise that I had not adequately explored Den-Den Town on either of my previous outings there as even on the third visit I kept finding new and exciting stuff.  Although a heap of stores are very heavily oriented towards figurines, which is something I have worked hard to mostly excise from my otaku habits. I move house too much and last time I didn't even unpack most of my figurines from storage. God is Japan tempting when it comes to that stuff though. Was soooo hard to resist that deluxe Kaitou Kid figurine.

Then the afternoon marched on to evening and I had to return to the hotel and pack my bags and prepare for the next leg of my adventures.


To close, have a random wasp on top of a building just because.

That's it for Japan!  You know, there were parts of that trip where I felt 'I think I've had my fill of Japan now' but by the end of it I still didn't want to leave. Going to come back some day for sure.

No time for post-Japan blues though! New adventures await!  Next post: Hong Kong!


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 9th, 2014 04:30 pm (UTC)
ahh i wanted to go there, next time!
Feb. 10th, 2014 08:27 am (UTC)
Where in particular? Toei Eigamura?

Always something for next time! :)
Feb. 10th, 2014 12:30 pm (UTC)
Yup, Toei Eigamura, sorry I wasn't clear lol

It's kinda impossible to run out of things to do in Japan =D
Feb. 10th, 2014 09:35 am (UTC)
I thought I could smell the okonomiyaki from my notebook. It looks so pretty and appealing when I am now waiting for my supper. It's cold here (at least for me it is cold), thus a hallucination of eating warm and chewy takoyaki is something great. I should have been tipped off by the Ramen, hmmm.

I couldn't stop laughing when I saw the part of spoken warnings, being reminded of stupid janitor robots in some anime XD.

The views are awesome, especially for those natural ones. And the escalator is really horrible, I missaw it as a automatic sidewalk o_o!

It's kind of relaxation to read your travel journals -w-.
Feb. 10th, 2014 11:49 am (UTC)
Hahaha, don't look at pictures of food while hungry I guess? Just makes it worse. I was pretty hungry while uploading these actually so can kind of imagine how you feel.

The janitor robots aren't stupid after all, that's exactly how the Japanese would design them! It all makes sense!
Feb. 10th, 2014 10:11 am (UTC)
Oh it looks like a lot of fun! (I am very jealous! XD)
Feb. 10th, 2014 11:50 am (UTC)
<3 Every day brings something new.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )